National Lutheran News

Center for Global Education sends Twin Citians abroad

A Minnesota visitor, left, learns a simpler way of food preparation in Latin America

A Minnesota visitor, left, learns a simpler way of food preparation in Latin America

Program based at Augsburg College builds social awareness

Twenty years ago an Augsburg College faculty member convinced the school’s leadership that students needed to encounter the Third World. Joel Mugge already had successfully led immersion programs for youth in Mexico. At Augsburg, he built on that experience, founding the Center for Global Edu-cation (CGE).

Over two decades, the program has grown to three overseas locations, where both students and individuals in the community can spend time learning and growing, all the while building relationships with local people.

Students at Augsburg College can sign up for a semester in Mexico, Central America, or Namibia (southwest Africa). Interested adults from the local community and beyond can visit the same locations for two-week periods.

In either case, the results can be life-changing. Current CGE director, Orval Ginger-ich, told Metro Lutheran that Augsburg College has a unique niche in international education. He said, “Our focus is on social justice and experiential (community based) learning.”

Gingerich explained that the visits, whether by students or non-academic adults, are deliberately structured so that they begin far more than casual, superficial visits to a strange place. “We try to expose our students [and other travelers] to marginalized individuals and indigenous, grass-roots people,” he said. That results in trips focusing on things like ecotourism, environmental sustainability and cooperative farming.

Lutheran World Relief organized a trip through CGE that focused on fair-trade coffee, a specific emphasis that LWR lifts up in Lutheran congregations. Participants in that group visited coffee growers in Central America.

Not all students at Augsburg participate in the program. The student semesters coordinated by CGE are optional. In any given year, around 10% of the students who sign up are from Augsburg College. The rest come from other Twin Cities campuses, and schools beyond the area. Valparaiso University is a partner with Augsburg in the program in Namibia.

Often, a church group decides to take a CGE trip. These 1-2 week experiences are designed in consultation with Gingerich. “We customize to meet their needs,” he says.

But church groups can’t simply do a CGE trip on short notice. “When a group comes asking for a travel seminar,” Gingerich says, “we’re looking at two years advance planning.”
He revealed that all three study/travel locations “are currently booked pretty full.”

During the 2004-2005 academic year, CGE will offer three opportunities in the Mexico/Central America arena: “Crossing Borders: Gender and Social Change in Mesoamerica” (Fall); “Social and Environmental Justice in Latin America” (Spring); “Sustainable Development and Social Change in Central America” (Fall or Spring).

In Namibia (which includes a visit to South Africa), the course, offered in either Fall or Spring, will be “Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind: Southern African Perspectives.”

Short-term visits continue to be offered for non-students.
Individuals wishing to explore the possibility of organizing a CGE visit, or who simply want to receive a brochure describing the opportunities, may call 612/330-1159 or toll free, 1-800-299-8889. E-mails are received at globaled@augs burg.edu. The Web site is www.augsburg.edu/global.